Stress is a part of life. We can experience long term stress through something like our careers or school, or something short term such as a project or a temporary family responsibility. As you might imagine, this can seriously affect our health, but there is a way to manage stress using the proper tools and techniques.
Different people can handle or react to stress differently. When we experience stress, there is a response to it called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. This is a survival response over a short period of time that is set off when we imagine something is a threat or when we experience shock. The brain then releases a stress hormone that will tell the body to leave the situation (flight), take the situation head on (fight), or not react to what is happening at all (freeze). This gives us the energy needed to overcome the situation; however, it also can give us anxiety and irritability.
This is great for life threatening events, but we also experience this in everyday situations, such as a work deadline we cannot handle or speaking in front of a large group of people. We have to tell ourselves in these everyday situations that a more reasonable reaction would be calm and controlled.
There are many signs of stress that manifest itself physically in our bodies. There are a few common symptoms that can be attributed to stress, such as: panic attacks, sleeping excessively, social withdrawal, frequent headaches, cold or sweaty palms of hands or feet, chronic fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and weight loss (or gain).
These are short term manifestations, but the consequences of long term stress can be much worse. Long term stress conditions include depression, stroke, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and a weak immune system. This is why we must take stress management seriously and learn how to control it properly.
We can be proactive with controlling stress, meaning taking action to change stressful situations. This includes managing your time, if we are too overloaded with tasks for work, school, or life in general it can be a key point of stress for many people. This includes creating to do lists, switching ‘off’ completely at scheduled times, not multitasking, etc. Other people can be a key stress point for us also. Family members can be very stressful, peers, and personal friendships! You have to make sure your needs and space are respected pertaining to these relationships. Do not overextend yourself. The last form of stress is where we can be spending a great majority of our time during the week – our work environment. It is important to minimize stress in the work environment, which can create uncomfortable, annoying, and unpleasant conditions.
This is part 1 of our series on Stress Management, check next month’s post for part 2 where we will have an in depth look at other approaches to manage stress in our lives!